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SUTPHEN ESTATES v. UNITED STATES ET AL.

decided: November 5, 1951.

SUTPHEN ESTATES, INC
v.
UNITED STATES ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton; Jackson, Clark and Minton took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Douglas

[ 342 U.S. Page 20]

 MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Rule 24 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in part as follows:

"(a) INTERVENTION OF RIGHT. Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action: . . . (2) when the representation of the applicant's interest by existing parties is or may be inadequate and the applicant is or may be bound by a judgment in the action; or (3) when the applicant is so situated as to be adversely affected by a distribution or other disposition of property which is in the custody or subject to the control or disposition of the court or an officer thereof."

Appellant claims intervention of right in the Sherman Act proceedings involving the reorganization of certain producers and distributors of motion picture films whose activities had been found to violate the Act. See United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131. If appellant may intervene as of right, the order of the court denying intervention is appealable. See Railroad Trainmen v. B. & O. R. Co., 331 U.S. 519, 524; 32 Stat.

[ 342 U.S. Page 21823]

     , as amended, 15 U. S. C. (Supp. II) § 29. It was to resolve that question that we postponed the question of our jurisdiction of the appeal to the hearing on the merits.

The present controversy stems from the reorganization of Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., pursuant to a decree of the court in the Sherman Act proceedings. Under this decree provision is made for the divorcement of Warner's theatre business from its production and distribution business. The various steps in the reorganization are not material here. It is sufficient to note that according to the plan the stockholders of Warner will vote a dissolution of Warner. Two new companies will be formed, one to receive the theatre assets, the other to receive the production and distribution assets. Each of the new companies will distribute its capital stock pro rata to Warner's stockholders.

Warner is a guarantor of a lease of theatre properties made by appellant to a subsidiary of a subsidiary of Warner. The lease, executed in 1928 and modified in 1948, is for a term of 98 years. The plan of reorganization submitted to the stockholders provides, as we read it and as construed by counsel for appellees on oral argument, that liabilities of the class in which the guaranty falls will be assumed by the new theatre company. Appellant seeks intervention to protect its guaranty.

There is intervention as of right under Rule 24 (a)(2) "when the representation of the applicant's interest by existing parties is or may be inadequate and the applicant is or may be bound by a judgment in the action." Appellant, however, is not a privy of Warner; its rights not only do not derive from Warner, they are indeed adverse to Warner. The decree in this case, like that in Credits Commutation Co. v. United States, 177 U.S. 311, therefore is not res judicata of the rights sought to be protected through intervention.

[ 342 U.S. Page 22]

     Nor is appellant entitled to intervene as of right by reason of Rule 24 (a)(3). It is true that this is a case of "a distribution or other disposition of property which is in the custody or subject to the control or disposition of the court . . ." within the meaning of Rule 24 (a)(3). For it is the authority of the court under the Sherman Act that sanctions and directs the reorganization. United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., supra, pp. 170 et seq. Appellant argues that it is "adversely affected" by the disposition of the property. It points out that under the plan its guarantor is dissolved and his property divided among two new companies, only one of which assumes the guarantor's liabilities under the lease. ...


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